Behind every ghost story is a tragedy of some kind, be it bloody and messy, or merely the result of an ill-fated series of events. Wars, torturous regimes, the suicide of a loved one, or the heartbreaking death of a child. All these occurrences form the bases for the most familiar hauntings, traversing cultures and languages.

While the world is supposedly filled with places haunted by tortured souls visiting us from another realm, most are just urban legends; stories we enjoy telling each other for thrills. However, there are a few that have verifiable paranormal activity, and unlike most tales we know, are not lurid but rather painfully sad and, well, haunting. Here is a list of the top 5 places in the world filled with melancholy ghosts frequently scaring the living.


1. The Empire State Building

Empire State BuildingEven though complaining about ghosts stomping the grounds of New York City’s most famous landmark has in some ways become a bit of a cliché, and that’s because it’s true. There have been more than 30-recorded suicides at the Empire State Building, with the most famous being that of a young woman by the name of Evelyn McHale. At the age of 23, in 1947, McHale jumped off the top of the building, landing on a limousine, clutching a string of pearls. According to common legend, she worried about not having the capacity to be a good wife.

A LIFE photographer who happened to be at the scene snapped a photo of her corpse, in what is now known as the infamous photograph “The World’s Most Beautiful Suicide.” Nearly every security guard or patron who has visited the Empire State Building claims to have seen her ghost wandering the grounds

While McHale is perhaps the best-known ghost at the tourist hotspot, many tragedies have befallen the building. Amongst them being a plane crashing into the structure in 1945, killing 13, and two mass shootings – one in 1997, the other in 2012. Point is, while it’s true that it’s often the site where the city’s most broken hearted have decided to end their despair, it seems to have also witnessed some truly violent deaths.


2. Island of the Dolls in Xochimilco, Mexico

Island of the DollsJust on the outskirts of Mexico City lies this creepy destination that is definitely NOT meant for tourists. Hundreds of dolls line the trees of this tiny island, most decapitated, or missing eyes and limbs.

As the story goes, an older gentleman in the 1950s moved to the island in search of solitude, only to be haunted by the spirit of a little girl who drowned there decades ago under mysterious circumstances. In an attempt to appease her ghost, he brought countless dolls and hung them from the trees. Still, he felt he could not appease her, and that she wanted him to join her as a ghost. The same day he confessed this fear to a relative, he was found dead, having drowned in the same canal she did years before. Their ghosts can now be seen on the island, and the dolls are said to whisper as you walk past.

There are a few kernels of truth buried deep within this tragic tale: the older man’s name is Don Julian and he was actually the girl’s caretaker, who tortured himself with guilt over his inability to save her from drowning. After finding her dead in the canal, he saw the girl’s doll floating in the water. He took it and hung it in a tree, adding hundreds of dolls in a sad but twisted tribute to the girl’s memory over the years. The few brave souls who have ventured to the island insist that they see the man and girl walking and talking amongst the trees.


3. Beechwood Lunatic Asylum, Victoria, Australia

Beechworth asylumThis asylum for the terminally insane opened in 1867, a time when undoubtedly the modern science of psychiatry left much to be desired. Most patients were forcefully committed by their families in what many now consider entirely unjust circumstances, and were subjected to inhumane conditions, including all sorts of torturous and invasive procedures, including overcrowding.

The asylum functioned more as a prison wherein society’s misfits would congregate, regardless of their mental state. The infamous structure is noted for the “Ha-Ha Walls,” which consisted of a trench on one side, and the other side sloped and turfed, giving the illusion to patients that the walls presented were tall, thus preventing them from escaping. And from the outside, the walls were so low that they did not suggest imprisonment.

For at least a hundred years, this institution seemed to be a resting stop of sorts before its denizens attempted to find their way into the afterlife. It is believed that as many as 9,000 patients have perished there. Even though the space has been partially torn down, and is now sometimes used to house wedding ceremonies in its chapel, it remains rife with ghosts, and most people who stop by it report hearing disembodied screams, and heavy doors are seen to open and slam shut of their own accord. One of the asylum’s most famous ghosts is that of a Jewish patient who was thrown to her death for a pack of cigarettes, and her apparition regularly appears in the window. Mute young girls have also been seen rushing past, desperately trying to communicate, and there even seems to be a slightly “friendlier” ghost who pokes people in the chest, and is heard laughing.


4. Old Changi Hospital, Changi, Singapore

Operating during the 1930s, this hospital was seized by the Japanese during World War II from the British Armed Forces, and turned into a prison and torture facility for the Japanese Secret Police. Many apparitions have been seen here, such as men and women wandering aimlessly through the halls and rooms, children rushing about screaming, and bloodied Japanese soldiers standing in various dark corridors. Numerous prisoners of war have come to a horrible end here, and the space’s dark history lends to an air of foreboding so dark and palpable, it can only result from the sins committed during war.

Today, the hospital lies abandoned in a sea of high-end luxury resorts and villas, but it remains known as one of the most haunted places in the world, with its imposing white walls and crumbling infrastructure acting as a backdrop to a couple of horror movies.

Perhaps the oddest thing to occur in the abandoned hospital on more than one occasion is that groups of paranormal investigators or history buffs have had one of their members momentarily disappear, only to later tell the same story. That they were following someone they thought looked like one of their colleagues deeper and deeper into the hospitals gloomy corridors, and then this familiar-looking figure would tell them that they did not belong in Old Changi, the site was dangerous, and they should never return. Then, once they rounded a corner, that apparition would suddenly disappear.


5. The Myrtles Plantation, St. Francisville, Louisiana, United States

Myrtles PlantationMany plantations in the American south are said to be haunted, or have shady pasts, clearly given their association with the slave trade. However, this 18th century plantation is perhaps the most famous, as it encapsulates some of that practice’s ugliest consequences.

There has been the horrifying lynching of a slave accused of attempting to poison his owners, and different occupants, including children, were murdered there. Several distinct apparitions are repeatedly seen at the plantation, either walking through the house or across the grounds, and bloodcurdling screams can be heard throughout the night. More recently, after a school field trip to the site, a teacher who took a few photos with her students noticed in the background the apparition of a little girl dressed in Antebellum period clothes, staring into the camera. Whether or not these photos are scams have yet to be proven, but regardless, they add to the spooky legend of Myrtles Plantation.


Tortured Souls

Past sins never truly die, and those feelings of guilt and regret continue to stain many places long after the tortured individuals who once inhabited them have departed. But their spirits remain, unable to leave behind the site of their psychic wounds, and serve as a warning to the living.